A new study says women around the world know less about politics than do men, regardless of how progressive a country is in terms of gender equality.
The United Kingdom's Economic & Social Research Council recently measured the media systems and national political knowledge of men and women in 10 countries: Australia, Canada, Colombia, Greece, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Norway, the U.K. and the United States. The study found that news consumption is primarily a male activity, with national populations that watch TV news – particularly public service broadcasters – better informed about politics than those who don't.
Researchers found that gender-equality laws factored little into whether women were politically knowledgeable.
"Our finding that the gap between men and women's knowledge of politics is greater in Norway – a country ranked globally as one of the very highest in terms of gender equality – than in South Korea – a country with a much lower equality rating – is particularly striking," Professor James Curran, director of the Goldsmiths Leverhulme Media Research Centre at University of London and lead researcher of the study, said in a released statement.
The study also found that economic status did not affect the knowledge gap: women were more widely behind men in "advanced" economies, such as those in the U.K. and U.S., than in less-advanced economies such as in Colombia.
"The fact that throughout the whole world women know less about politics than men and that this is as true for people in Norway as it is in Colombia is really very surprising," Curran said.
Of the coverage measured, women were interviewed or cited in 30 percent of television news stories from the 10 countries measured. In all 10 countries, women tended to appear in "soft news" stories, covering topics such as family, lifestyle and culture.
The countries with the widest gaps between genders were Canada, Norway and the U.K., where men claimed to be exposed to TV and newspapers significantly more than women.
The study goes onto say that the reason for the gap could be rooted in male-biased media content, less leisure time and greater unpaid work undertaken by women at home and social norms inherited from past generations.
"Whatever the reasons, our research shows that globally in the 21st Century those who are most likely to be knowledgeable about politics and current affairs are older men in advanced industrial nations," Curran said in the release.